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The University of Hartford

The Jim Cifelli New York Nonet:
Bullet Trane
(Short Notice Music) By Chuck Obuchowski

     It's tough enough to keep a jazz quartet together these days, let alone a nine-piece ensemble. Jim Cifeili, trumpeter/composer/arranger, is to be commended for persevering. His New York Nonet's first effort is a potent blend of original and standard material, impeccably executed by some of the Big Apple's most talented young improvisers.
     Of note to Connecticut listeners are the superb contributions of Hall High alumni Pete McGuiness and Joel Frahm, on trombone and tenor sax respectively. In fact, Fralun's fleet-fingered solo on the lead-off title selection immediately commands attention. Cifelli has used John Coltrane's "Countdown" - a notoriously challenging harmonic romp - as the basis for this piece; former West Hartford resident Frahm nails it with a combination of bullet-like speed and Trane-like no-holds-barred impulses.
     McGuiness contributes a muscular arrangement of the Burke-Van Heusen classic "It Could Happen to You;" elsewhere, his solo abilities are brought to the forefront on a couple of Cifelli compositions. Not to suggest that Frahm and McGulness are the only exciting musicians on this disc. Although there are no household names on board, every player brings something special to Bullet Dune. It's also heartening to see women being featured in such an ensemble: bassist Mary Ann McSweeney and multi-instrumentalist Barbara Cifelli both contribute significantly to the group's overall sound. And, let's face It, there hasn't been a "little big band" like this one around since Lee Konitz threw in the Nonet towel almost 20 years ago.
     Jim Cifelli proves himself a formidable arranger on jazz standards like "Ladybird" and "Dolphin Dance;" he acknowledges his debt to Manny Albam, one of modern jazz's greatest arrangers, who was one of Cifelli's teachers. Even more impressive to this writer are the Nonet leader's compositional skills. Take "Silent Eyes," for instance. This lovely ballad says more in three minutes than some composers manage to convey over the course of an entire recording. My favorite piece, however, is "Far and Near," which carries the listener on an unlikely journey from a stately horn chorale, into a funkified ensemble theme and through a series of earcatching solos, culminating in a very electric, very exciting guitar statement from Pete McCann. McCann, whose mastery of a wide spectrum of jazz styles is' reminiscent of another young New York stringman, Ben Monder, has just signed a deal with Palmetto Records, as has Joel Frahm... and the New York Nonet has already recorded tracks for their next release. Obviously, this is a band to watch!
     WWUH is pleased to announce that jazz fans in our listening area will have the opportunity to experience the Jim Cifelli New York Nonet at its Connecticut debut performance, Friday, December 4. The concert which is being sponsored by WWUH will take place in the Wilde Auditorium in the Harry Jack Gray Center on the University of Hartford campus in West Hartford, CT.

Copyright©WWUH: September/October Program Guide, 1998

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